What can we learn from the Beatles?

Be Committed To Commitment, from the book 'The Art of Creative Thinking' by Rod Judkins.

I had never been so petrified. I didn’t understand what was happening. l was a child of seven and l clung to my aunt’s jacket for fear of being swept away in the stampeding mob of screaming, wailing girls. The noise was deafening. It's impossible to describe the sheer magnitude of the hysteria. Girls fainted and collapsed and ambulance men rushed past holding their floppy, contorted bodies. It was like a medieval battlefield. l was crushed on all sides by a throng of thousands. Their eyes were wet with tears andtheir faces twisted with distress.

Then the Beatles stepped out of the plane and things went really crazy. It was 1964 and my aunt, who worked at Heathrow, had taken me to see the Fab Four return to England after a triumphant trip to the USA.

When the Beatles played on the legendary Ed Sullivan Show on TV it was a milestone in American pop culture. A record-breaking audience of 73 million viewers were mesmerised.

To the USA. the Beatles were an overnight success, but in fact Lennon and McCartney had been playing together since 1957‘ In the clubs of Hamburg they performed/endured live non-stop shows for eight hours a day, seven days a week until two o'clock in the morning, and had to work incredibly hard to attract audiences from the many clubs in hamburg competing for attention. Their abilities and confidence increased. By 1964 they had played roughly 1,200 times, totalling thousands of hours' playing time, more than most rock bands play in their entire careers. Those hours of performing set the Beatles apart. They were addicted to practice, yet their rehearsing was not repetitive but adventurous. They didn't play the classic rock songs of the time over and over until they sounded exactly like the originals, as other bands did, they experimented and improvised, constantly embellishing the standards until they made them their own. They understood that there was nothing to be gained from mechanical repetition. The Beatles gave each other constant feedback, to improve and make their sound more and more like the Beatles and less and less like everyone else.

In their early days the Beatles were not great musicians; there were better, more technically proficient guitarists, singers and drummers (John Lennon was once asked at a press conference if he thought Ringo was the best drummer in the world; he jokingly replied, ’Ringo isn’t the best drummer in the Beatles.'). Yet on The Ed Sullivan Show, the four lads from the backstreets of Liverpool displayed no trace of nerves. Their confidence was the result of their years of playing together and painstaking development.

Ninety-nine per cent of the difference between successful innovative people and those who fail is commitment to self-improvement. The extraordinary amount of time and effort the successful put into developing their work amplifies their abilities. If someone is more successful than you, the chances are they work harder at self development. Practice is important but it has to be good practice. Bad practice is thoughtlessly repeating something to perfect it. Good practice is putting time into imaginative improvement. When Matisse produced a series of paintings of the same female model, he didn’t achieve more and more accuracy: he achieved more and more inventiveness.

The Beatles got the most out of their talent by investing the imaginative practice needed to develop their qualities. We only get out what we put in. No masterpieces have ever been produced by a talented but lazy artist. People who become rich enough to never need to work again are the people who never stop working.

‘A genius! For thirty-seven years I've practised fourteen hours a day and now they call me a genius! ’ - Pablo de Sarasate